Congress is on break starting today through the Thanksgiving holiday. The House returns to work December 2nd for two weeks and the Senate returns the following week of December 9th. Unfortunately, budget negotiations did not result in top-line numbers for FY2014 spending before lawmakers left town, leaving appropriators very little time to draft an omnibus spending bill before the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out on January 15th. Appropriators and their staff say they need at least 30 days to put together an omnibus bill to keep the government running when the current stopgap spending measure (PL 113-46) expires on January 15th.
House leaders have stated that they will try to advance a new CR at the sequester level of $967 billion for discretionary spending set under the 2011 Budget Control Act (PL 112-25) if budget negotiators can’t produce a deal.
But appropriators are concerned not only about the current year but that the appropriations cycle for FY2015 will face the same challenges that the FY2014 process has faced. The House and Senate Budget Committees traditionally pass concurrent budget resolutions in April each year that provide the framework for appropriators to proceed on the 12 annual spending bills. Work on FY2014 bills fell apart in August after the House and Senate appropriations committees spent months working under different top lines, known as 302(a) allocations, and no compromise was forged to bridge the $91 billion gap between the House and Senate plans. Appropriators believe now is the best chance to create a top line number for FY2015, several months ahead of schedule, which could help restore regular order to the appropriations process.
But now nothing will happen for at least a week or two while everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving break. The game clock, however, keeps ticking toward the January 15th deadline of the existing CR.